Finding Space

No, this is not about outer space or even about indoor/outdoor space. It is about mental space — about room in our head for new thoughts. I was reflecting on the physical space in our house and how at times it seems so large, and yet yesterday as our grown children were home for the day and our grandson was here, the house had shrunk. (All in a good way mind you; it was a delight to have them here!)

It got me thinking about space. How do we use it? If we need to, how do we find more space? What about mental space? What about all those emotions that came swirling into me as we talked, played, and dealt with both light and heavy subjects.

After they all headed out, two to NY and three back home a few miles away, I thought about a good old-fashioned house cleaning. I thought about crying tears of joy for all that we have and a few tears of sorrow and loss for the hard year it has been for everyone.

This thinking started again in the a middle-of-the-night discussion with myself. I was thinking about each room in the house and where we were collecting things that did not need to be there. Where we were holding onto things but not using them, not even looking at them? There is a collection of older framed pictures that I know I will not hang in the house, but have not gotten rid of them. There are the three bookshelves of children’s books. Some books are worth keeping, but others are outdated or are ok reads but I don’t really need to hold on to them. There are those emotions that I can’t quite let go of, and they resurface in the night. The what ifs? How do I let go of those as well?

So when the what ifs started popping up in my thinking, I pushed my thoughts back to physical things that I can do.  My thinking scanned the book shelves and landed on the shelf of personal journals — a full shelf of black composition notebooks and a few fancy spiral notebooks with writing in them. What do I do with those? These are taking up physical space but also a large emotional space that I have not returned to in years.

I can’t give those away. I did not write them for anyone else to read. In all honesty most of them are pretty dry. I was not a good journalist as a young person.

I had the diary with the key but never really wrote in it. I never wrote in middle school; those were the years I was drawing a bit. High school and college left me busy with homework and a few friends, so extra writing was not going to happen. images.jpgSomewhere as an adult with kids I started journals again. Most ended up with notes about things to get done. Some notebooks have pages and pages of positive affirmations to help me get over the emotions of cancer or other fears that had taken over my thinking in those young years.

So again, what do I do with them? I have decided to put them in order of years and begin to go through them writing down comments and thoughts from the pages that seem interesting, or the story starters that are hidden in these pages. I am going to try and move them to a digital document. They can have a digital presence as I get older but I can let the paper go.

Making space — physically and mentally

This is a hard move for me. I see that there might be an interest in seeing how I wrote — seeing the hand writing or seeing that for a few years journalling was really just writing positive statements. Release pages and pages of writing is tricky.

But them I come back to: who did I write these journals for? I wrote them for me to work out my thoughts and ideas. I wrote them to clarify the happenings of my life. They were not written as tales for my children to read. They were not written to go out into the world for someone else to read. They are just short private notes on what was/was not working in my life.

It occurred to me that really rewriting these is about making not only physical space but emotional space in my life. It is about reading, reviewing and saving the parts of the journal that are important to me and letting go of the rest. It is really about making emotional space in my life — review and let go.

I realize that journals can be about what we are thinking of in the moment but they are also ways of helping us to let go if we go back and reread them. If we review and spend a bit of time with our own writing it might help us see what we have learned in life or where we thought we were going.

It also seems to me that rereading is a good way to say good bye to old fears, emotions and troubles of our past. And so I begin one journal at a time — reading, reviewing and letting go. (A good task as the garden closes down and the cold winter days approach.)

Tell me: what do you do with old journals? Do you reread them?  Do you leave them for your children or grandchildren to read?

Just as important: why do you journal?

(On a side note I am thinking this might be good to do with my garden journals as well. There are now 5 of them. It might be interesting to really read them and see what has happen in my garden over that last 5 years and see what I  might have learned! )

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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3 Responses to Finding Space

  1. Terje says:

    Writing to let go, rereading as a way to say good-bye – an interesting idea. I hope that rereading your journals during the no-gardening season brings yuo some closure and some positive surprises, and you enjoy the company of your younger self.

  2. Kate says:

    My slice today was also about creating space of the mental sort (although after walking through my neighbor’s brand new house with zero–ZERO!!–clutter I have begun to task of going through every.single.space in our house to de-clutter too)…so I really appreciated yours. I have journals in my basement that I’ll never get rid of because they are from a different life of mine, from when I lived and traveled abroad. When I want to revisit that past life with fresh, wiser eyes, they are there for me. But there are other journals from hard times in my life that I think I could do what you’re doing: reading the feelings again, honoring those times, and then releasing them in some way and letting go. Great slice–thank you!

  3. Adrienne says:

    Thanks for this. I struggle with the same issue with my journals. I’ve saved some, lost some in moves and still wonder what to do with them.

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